Unconventional, but not as risqué as it ought to have been
Vingarne is based on Herman Bang's novel Mikael. For a long time, it was thought to be the earliest surviving film made by Mauritz Stiller.
It is also known for the fluidity of its editing, and for the odd framework story, which draws away one's attention from the film's real story, and therefore lessens its impact. The framework story is about how they made Vingarne. It begins with Mauritz Stiller making preparations for the filming, and takes us to the film premiere. It wraps up with a bit of comic business in the lead actress's house.
Today, all that survives of this framework story are a few grainy stills, but it is still enough to distract the viewer from what the film, Vingarne, is actually about. Why?
One theory is that the framework story exists to keep viewers from noticing Vingarne's cleverly hidden homosexual themes. These themes are clearly present in the novel Mikael. Its author, Herman Bang, was homosexual. Vingarne's scriptwriter was homosexual. Nils Asther, the young actor who doesn't get the part of the lead in the film in the framework story, because he appears "too young and inexperienced" when he kisses the lead actress, was homosexual. So, reportedly, was Mauritz Stiller. There are good reasons to look for homosexual subtext in Vingarne.
However, as another reviewer on this site has noted, there is barely anything like that there. Why would Mauritz Stiller want to gloss it over, if he had those leanings himself?
Swedish film is known for having challenged conservative standards with depictions of sex on the screen as early as the 1950's. But at the time when Mauritz Stiller was active, the Swedish film industry had a government-controlled film censorship bureau which was so strict that some Chaplin films were banned. Mauritz Stiller's films had been censored many times. He knew he wouldn't be allowed to make a film containing homosexual themes. But I think he did manage to slip in a few suggestive details into this one.
The most obvious thing in Vingarne is in its title. Vingarne, 'wings', refers to the sculpture which the older man is making of his younger friend. It depicts young Ganymedes getting kidnapped by Zeus in the form of an eagle. If you are not familiar with the myth, look it up.
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